inspiring joy filled living

Who Are You?

January 11, 2024

Extraordinary Motherhood: Who Are You?

As a kid, anytime I dreamed about what I wanted to be when I grew up the same images emerged.  They included microphones, wide stages, glittery costumes, and outdoor amphitheaters filled with people singing every word along with me.  A rainbow of lights flooding the stage, rolling into the audience and back again.  I could feel the energy, and hear the roar of the crowd, as my voice soared even past the very last row.  It was intoxicating.

Knowing me as a child you would never pinpoint me as the next rock star.  I was PAINFULLY shy, and quiet, and preferred to listen over speaking.  I faded into the background, a wallflower, letting others guide the conversation.  Until the spotlight found me.  As a child in an elementary school play, I found myself.  For the first time in my life, I discovered a passion I didn’t know was possible.  It was the best feeling.  To stand on a stage, belting out lyrics felt like magic.  Yet, once the lights dimmed and the audience left, I was me again. Shy, quiet, rule-following, me.  

It was those years in musical theater that gave me an extraordinary amount of confidence.  I truly believed that all things were possible and that there was a big world out there just waiting to be discovered.  As with all creative endeavors, the highs come with the lows.  The cheers come with the naysayers and dream stealers.  When you’re young you don’t have the wisdom yet to know that oftentimes those trying to steal your dreams had their dreams dashed somewhere along the way.  Little pieces cut away bits of confidence but if you’re lucky, you will have a few voices along the way that whisper in your ear to keep going.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I had my Dad and my then-boyfriend turned husband of almost seventeen years (sometimes I can’t believe I’ve been around the sun enough times to be married for seventeen years! A story for another day!)  

The funny part about growing up is when you’re young you are often asked, what do you want to be when you grow up.  But very rarely, if ever, are we asked who we want to be.  A slight turn of phrase, with a very different meaning.  What is about occupation, academic endeavors, and the nuts and bolts of how we will spend our time.  The who is harder to pinpoint.  It is more encompassing, wrapping together our values, and morals alongside our hopes and dreams.  Who brings in our hearts and lays them bare before us.  Who runs laps around an occupation because it is woven throughout any job we may have.  It is also the best way to define a life.

I loved singing and still do.  The chase of creating a new song, piecing together lyrics and melody, the warmth of recording studio headphones, and the beautiful applause after a show well done.  But there was also a long list I didn’t love.  The constant rejection, the politics, the game of who you know and who knows you, the crazy hours, and sometimes even crazier people.  The music was my love but the decision to pause a full-speed singing career felt right.  

It was then that the question of who I wanted to be came into better focus.

My three precious girls, my hearts walking around outside of my body, my daughters, blew up everything I knew about myself.  They taught me I was stronger than I ever imagined I could be.  I was more capable and more courageous.  The lengths of what I would do for another human expanded endlessly and a new kind of compassion began to settle in.  Sitting up with a sick baby in the middle of the night praying a fever away or begging God that the concussion symptoms would subside and not be permanent.  Or feeling your heart break inside your chest when your little girl tells you the depths of the bullying she has faced.  I know I have only been able to walk through motherhood because God holds my hand.  I am so weak and scared and get incredibly tired, but thankfully He doesn’t fall victim to any of those things.

The extraordinary I knew because of singing set the stage (pun intended!) for who I would need to be later in life.  The beauty of years under our belts is the wisdom we gain along the way.  It defines and transforms us for who we need to be next.

Sometimes I think about what it would have been like if I had continued to work toward that music career, where I would be now.  And yet, I truly believe in my heart that God had and has a plan and purpose for each of our lives.  If He wanted me to pursue that life, the doors would have flown open.  I also know that would have meant a series of closed doors for other areas of my life, that I hold dearly.  

A wise therapist told me in my twenties, that you can have it all, just not at the same time.  I’ll also add: that sometimes the all changes along the way. The wide-eyed eighteen-year-old back then and the forty-one-year-old now still have many things in common, the thrill of a gorgeous melodic line and the satisfaction of a job well done, but the biggest difference is at forty-one I am no longer defined by my resume or which producer likes my voice (or being devastated if they don’t like me.)

The who of who I am has become my greatest pursuit.  To show up as the best wife and mom, despite all my flaws.  To work hard, be kind and love Jesus the best I can.  

Sweet friends, life can be hard and so unfair.  For a long time, I saw my lack of a music career as a major disappointment.  My shame clouded who God was trying to show me.  I let my hurts color my relationships and shatter my ego.  

It was the best gift I could have been given. 

It has taken me a decade or so to say that, but it is true.  When my eyes are on me, my accomplishments, my dreams, I only see me.  I don’t see other people and I certainly don’t see God.  I get wrapped up in a world that does not exist.  But when He breaks you wide open, the clarity and truth are finally allowed in.  When I saw that I was not my voice, I began to realize my value is not based on talent.

I am a whole person with a heart and mind and two capable hands.  The very person, the who inside, had to come from loving myself not hating and shaming.  There is such a relief that comes when we know we are exactly where we are supposed to be.  Take a moment, close your eyes, and let that truth wash over you.  You are exactly where you are supposed to be.  It does not mean your situation is permanent, the good, the bad, the really hard, the hurt, or even the joy.  All it means is that God sees you and He sees me in this exact moment.  He knows where we are, and what we are going through and He isn’t letting us out of His sight.  He has walked the earth and experienced all that we do.  And yet, the depths of His love are no match for the heartbreaks on this earth.  

That is who He is.  

Holding those truths in my hands, I can be who I am.